2023’s Met Gala: What Should Have Been

Wisdom Konu and Esther Puderbaugh

The Met Gala is a prestigious fashion event, attended by celebrities from multiple industries, from film and television to music and social media. Guests are expected to coordinate their fashion to match the theme of the exhibit, which is generally haute couture. The event is an annual fundraising gala held for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City. The gala is organized by the fashion magazine, Vogue, and the editor-in-chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour has chaired or co-chaired the Met Gala since 1995. 

On May 2nd of 2022, the Met Gala theme was held in New York City and was entitled In America: An Anthology of Fashion, the second chapter of its two-part exhibition on American fashion to follow up last year’s In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. Last year’s theme was Gilded Glamour, White Tie. The theme Gilded Glamour pointed to the period of the Gilded Age, roughly 1870 to 1890. This year’s theme has been announced as ‘Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty‘ to honor the late Karl Lagerfeld, german fashion designer, who was known as the creative director of the French fashion house Chanel, a position held from 1983 until his death in February of 2019, and was also creative director of Italian fashion house Fendi, and of his own nominative fashion label.

The clothing worn to the Met Gala influences fashion trends, and thus the theme of any given year has an effect on these trends. The theme is also a hot topic in the fashion community, and in public spheres. When this is coupled with Lagerfeld’s problematic personal history, Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty is a poor choice of theme. Some of Lagerfeld’s most memorable quotes come from his thoughts on the #MeToo Movement. At one point he said, “What shocks me most are the starlets who have taken 20 years to remember what happened.” Lagerfeld’s quotes on German Chancellor Angela Merkel opening up the country to migrants also landed him in hot water. “One cannot — even if there are decades between them — kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place,” Lagerfeld told a talk show. Lagerfeld shared more of his thoughts on the matter with this quote: “I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said, ‘The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust.'” Lagerfeld also has a long history of criticizing women. He called model Heidi Klum “too heavy”, singer Adele “a little too fat”, and the late Princess Diana “stupid”; as well as stating that Coco Chanel wasn’t “ugly enough” to be a feminist. Lagerfeld, a gay man, was also against gay marriage. 

The choice to make the Met Gala theme something to honor the late Lagerfeld is a confusing choice given his problematic history. If they wanted to honor a late designer, there would have been better options. Multiple renowned fashion designers have passed, who have massively contributed to the fashion world, including legendary designers Thierry Mugler, Paco Rabbanne, Mary Quant, and Issey Miyake. 

Designer Virgil Abloh passed away in the late autumn of 2021 from cancer that he had kept private. Owner and founder of luxury street-style brand, Off-White, and former artistic director Louis Vuitton menswear, Abloh’s impact on fashion is undeniable. His unique vision for street style will be felt for years to come. In addition to his designing career, Abloh used his influence to fundraise for multiple charitable causes, including starting his own scholarship fund for Black fashion students. 

Legendary fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood, named the Queen of Punk, left us on December 29, 2022. She was largely responsible for bringing modern punk and new wave fashion into the mainstream fashion world. Vivienne defined the look of punk with her fashion appearing on supermodels and celebrities, influencing our current mainstream fashion. Throughout her life, Vivienne was a vocal political activist, showing that through her collections, shouting about injustice through her fashion. While it’s great to honor designers who have passed away, Lagerfeld was ultimately an inappropriate and bad choice for this year’s Met; and if the Met Gala were to do a theme after someone, there are a multitude of other legendary designers to pick from.